Meet The People Who Rebuilt Communities Hit By Massive Earthquakes

From Puebla to Oaxaca, communities in Mexico have been rebuilding from the earthquakes that shook cities, toppled homes, and disrupted livelihoods in 2017. Take a look at what they’ve accomplished in four years.


On the anniversary of the Mexico earthquakes, these seven snapshots offer a glimpse into how people restored homes, schools, and spirits in the aftermath.

The community-led nonprofits that helped them (and shared their stories here) were fueled by people around the world who gave to GlobalGiving’s Mexico Earthquake Relief Fund. Here’s what they’re doing together:

    Reviving livelihoods

    A woman in a pink apron stands in the corner of her kitchen in front of her reconstructed brick stove Photo: Pro Ayuda a la Mujer Origen A.C.

    Raquel Cruz Velásquez has a 15-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, and she lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. She makes and sells totopos, fresh tortilla chips. “The earthquake of September 2017 destroyed my kitchen, and I lost the way to earn income, making it difficult to feed my family,” she said. Fundación Origen helped her recover emotionally and rebuild her kitchen so she could go back to selling the traditional totopos.

    Making living art

    A closeup of a mural showing a woman's profile with her mouth covered by a bright blue and red pattern. Colorful patterns surround her face. Photo: MANOS QUE RECONSTRUYEN OAXACA A.C.

    Na ‘Elba is one of the last traditional chain weaving artisans in Oaxaca. She is part of the educational workshops on traditional crafts in MANOS QUE RECONSTRUYEN OAXACA A.C’s Art and Heritage Route, a program created to remind them that the heart of their Indigenous Zapotec peoples was not in the walls they lost during the earthquakes of 2017 but in the people who preserve the knowledge and their cultural heritage. In this mural, the artist Irving Cano painted the gaze of Na ‘Elba, the stitches she weaves, and her 120-year-old machine.

    Teaching Tlecuitl techiques

    A young boy in a red shirt and pants sits on the side of a blue stove made from mortar Photo: Investigación y Soluciones Socioambientales A.C.

    José is resting after helping with the construction of the Tlecuitl (the local name for wood stoves). José’s family used various materials, such as mortar (a mixture of raw earth, sand, and lime), in order to use local resources. José is a curious child, always interested in learning everything—particularly the construction technique of the Tlecuitl. He shares what he learns from Investigación y Soluciones Socioambientales with his neighbors and relatives who were also affected by Mexico’s 2017 earthquakes.

    Building back, traditionally

    A woman and a man stand in the doorway of a home with exposed bricks and rebar. Photo: Marlena Hartz

    Rosa and Ramón lost half their home to the Oaxaca earthquake in seconds. Although state engineers told the couple it needed to be demolished, they repaired their home brick by brick with help from Cooperación Comunitaria A.C., local masons, and traditional building techniques that can withstand the region’s powerful earthquakes and winds. They are among 63 other homeowners in the area that received support to rebuild and prepare for the next earthquake.

    Instructing and reconstructing

    A group of women laugh while rebuilding an oven with bricks and cement. Photo: Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer, A.C. (Fondo Semillas)

    The State Association of Indigenous and Country Women, Xasasti Yolistli, gave a workshop on stove construction to women of a rural area in Puebla. This is one of 25 organizations that were financed by Fondo Semillas after the earthquakes of 2017. The goal was to support long-term earthquake recovery, led by women from the damaged communities.

    Recovering for the next generation

    Young boys and girls in white uniforms with blue collars stand smiling with their arms around each other. Two adults and a building are out of focus in the background. Photo: Proyecto Impacto Consultores, AC

    The earthquake of Sept. 7 affected many schools of different educational levels. At the Lázaro Cárdenas del Río school in Gustavo López, Pijijiapan, Chiapas, recovering the joy of the children and teenagers kept Proyecto Impacto Consultores, AC steady in the reconstruction process. They know the students will create thousands of opportunities to make a world where we are all agents of change. “We are convinced that the education of young people is a factor of transformation and strengthening of communities,” the team said.

    Fueling the process

    A woman stands behind sheets of unbaked buns. A large cement stove is in lit the background. Photo: ALIANZA CÍVICA PINOTEPA NACIONAL, A.C.

    Doña Sofía makes the “bread of life.” She is one of the bakers who still preserves the recipe and the method of her ancestors to make it in her wood oven, which is one of the more than 50 ovens that ALIANZA CÍVICA PINOTEPA NACIONAL helped rebuild by 2018 after the earthquake in the municipality of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca.

On the fourth anniversary of the Mexico earthquakes, our partners’ long-term disaster recovery work continues. Although the GlobalGiving Mexico Earthquake Relief Fund is now closed, we remain committed to fueling community-led relief and recovery efforts.

Learn more about GlobalGiving’s ongoing community-led disaster response work across the world.


Featured Photo: Rebuilding communities affected by 8.2 earthquake by Cooperación Comunitaria A.C.

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